editor's choice



Romance is one of the most underrated genres, which is an outrage as so many talented authors write within it. Liz Jones’ The Queen of Romance celebrates one of the late greats – and, no doubt, to many, unknowns – Marguerite Jervis. A prolific writer, better known by her pen names, among them Countess Barcynska and Oliver Sandys, Jervis was a flamboyant character, who lived life to the full. Jones captures her spirit marvellously in a book that’s entertaining, informative and seamlessly written.

I was intrigued to read this biography, not just because I’m a huge fan of the genre, but because I know and have read many of Jervis’s books, mostly within the walls of the British Library in my first job as editor of Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers.

It’s amazing to think this woman, who was a product of the Raj, from a privileged background, and who was successful by any measure, is so unknown to modern audiences. Jervis wrote some 150 books during her lifetime, some turned into films, one of which marked Alfred Hitchcock’s directorial debut, and yet she doesn’t even have her own burial stone. I remember that fact as it’s so disturbing on so many levels – this fascinating, talented woman was buried anonymously with her husband, Caradoc Evans. And when I say with, I mean in his grave, with absolutely no reference to her at all. To me, that feels rather like Sylvia Plath, buried in pretty much obscurity in a plain grave in the wilds of Yorkshire, near her husband’s home. In both cases, Jervis and Plath had problematic relationships with the men in their lives. Both arguably deserved better.

I’m hoping that Liz Jones’ biography, which brings Jervis vividly to life, also brings new readers to her work. Her books may seem stylised and possibly dated to modern audiences, but they’re well-written, full of vigour and humour, with irrepressible heroines who survive whatever life throws at them. Very much of their time, they are great social and cultural commentaries that deserve another outing. And The Queen of Romance may allow them just that.

Highly recommended.


The Queen of Romance | Liz Jones | Honno

| pb | £12.99 | 6 May 2021 | ebook also available

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the publisher virtual book tour. Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for arranging it and to the publisher for sending a review copy and the above jacket image. All views expressed are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other great reviewers on the tour.

See also:Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Interviews:Some like it hot – the joy of Carole Mortimer, award-winning romance writer‘;  ‘Meet Mary Jo Putney‘; ‘Meet Mary Balogh: Q&A‘; ‘Kate Perry, literary ‘It Girl’ or ‘demented Victorian‘.

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